Why the US and Japan Do Not Shoot Down North Korea’s Ballistic Missiles

The article is bias with some inaccurate information from someone who is anti-missile defense, however it repeats something I have said before that the US and Japan cannot shoot down North Korea’s missiles unless you know where they are going.  This is because the Aegis system the US and Japan has do not shoot down missiles on the boost phase which is what a missile traveling over Japan is at.  These ships defend the territory of Japan if the missile was to come down on it in the terminal phase of flight.  It is the same for the THAAD system, unless the missile is coming down on South Korea or on Guam in its terminal phase the THAAD systems in each of those locations cannot shoot down North Korea’s missiles:

Joe Cirincione

The number one reason we don’t shoot down North Korea’s missiles is that we cannot.

Officials like to reassure their publics about our defense to these missiles. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga toldhis nation after last week’s test, “We didn’t intercept it because no damage to Japanese territory was expected.”

That is half true. The missile did not pose a serious threat. It flewover the Japanese island of Hokkaido, landing 3700 km (2300 miles) from its launch point near North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang.

The key word here is “over.” Like way over. Like 770 kilometers (475 miles) over Japan at the apogee of its flight path. Neither Japan nor the United States could have intercepted the missile. None of the theater ballistic missile defense weapons in existence can reach that high. It is hundreds of kilometers too high for the Aegis interceptors deployed on Navy ships off Japan. Even higher for the THAAD systems in South Korea and Guam. Way too high for the Patriot systems in Japan, which engage largely within the atmosphere.

All of these are basically designed to hit a missile in the post-mid-course or terminal phase, when it is on its way down, coming more or less straight at the defending system. Patriot is meant to protect relatively small areas such as ports or air bases; THAADdefends a larger area; the advanced Aegis system theoretically could defend thousands of square kilometers.  [Defense One]

You can read more at the link.

Dozens Injured After Korean Protesters Removed to Allow Deployment of Additional THAAD Launchers

After all the months of drama in regards to this issue, the THAAD launchers are finally in:

U.S. military vehicle moves as South Korean police officers try to block residents and protesters who oppose to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in Seongju, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

I guess the next concern from USFK will be whether the road to the THAAD site will remain open or is this a one time police presence to open the road?  If so the helicopter resupplies to the site will have to continue:

Thousands of South Korean police were deployed near the THAAD site, which is in a remote southeastern area of the country, to clear the way for the U.S. convoy carrying the four additional launchers and other equipment on Thursday.

Scuffles broke out when hundreds of protesters tried to block the path to the former golf course that now houses THAAD. Local health and fire officials said dozens of people suffered mostly minor injuries.

The defense ministry said that, despite the protests, the THAAD deployment was completed.

Officials stressed it was a “tentative” measure resulting from the urgent threat posed by North Korea and a decision on maintaining THAAD will be made after a full environmental impact assessment is completed.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

Japan to Decides to Purchase Aegis Ashore System In Response to North Korean Missile Threats

This expected purchase of an Aegis Ashore system seems to make sense considering it can provide a persistent missile defense capability for Japan without having to rotate in and out their current Aegis BMD ships:

Japan is planning to deploy a new U.S.-developed ground-based missile defense system.

The Defense Ministry is to provisionally request that the fiscal 2018 budget cover planning costs for installing the Aegis Ashore system, according to a ministry official. “We are being urged to enhance our capabilities to continually protect the entirety of Japan from the threat of a missile attack,” the official said.  (……)

Japan’s Defense Ministry has studied whether to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, system or the Aegis Ashore shield. But it has not planned for Aegis Ashore installations. The system is not included in the current National Defense Program Guidelines or mentioned in mid-term defense planning documents. The official said Aegis Ashore plans will be finalized by the end of the year.  [Asian Review]

You can read more at the link.

Bruce Bennett Explains Why South Korea Needs THAAD

RAND researcher Bruce Bennett explains why South Korea needs the THAAD missile defense system:

Bruce Bennett

There were many reasons for the deployment of THAAD in Seongju, the location chosen for the THAAD battery in South Korea. One leading reason: In a major Korean conflict, tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel would deploy to Korea over time largely through the Pusan port area in southeastern Korea. They would be most vulnerable to a North Korean nuclear weapon attack while in the port area and while assembling to depart from Pusan. Not protecting exposed military personnel from the North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear weapon threat would be irresponsible, the United States concluded.

By placing THAAD in Seongju, the U.S. can also attempt to protect the large South Korean urban areas of Pusan, Kwangju, Pohang, and Daegu, as well as many other cities in the southern part of South Korea. During a U.S. military deployment to protect South Korea, a North Korean nuclear weapon detonating on Pusan might kill thousands of U.S. military personnel arriving in Pusan, but it could also kill a 100,000 or so South Koreans. With this THAAD placement, the United States is trying to prevent such an outcome.  [Korea Times]

You can read more at the link, but one of the arguments often used by anti-THAAD activists is that the system is there to protect US troops not Koreans.  This argument has always been one of the stupidest considering that if a missile with a nuclear weapon is fired at a US military base the explosion and destruction is not limited to the US military base; the whole city would be destroyed.

 

ROK Government Plans to Wait Until Protesters Remove Blockade Before Allowing Deployment of THAAD Launchers

I would not be surprised if the Moon administration is trying to appease the US and the Korean right by saying they are approving the deployment of four additional THAAD launchers while not actually letting them on the site because of the blockade built by protesters.  This in turn would appease their left wing base by not letting the launchers on to the site:

A Defense Ministry official here said Tuesday, “The deployment of additional launchers will be handled through a transparent process. That entails convincing local residents and notifying them beforehand of the deployment.” He added, “That means we will not deploy them by surprise in the middle of the night as the first two THAAD launchers were in Seongju in April.”

A Cheong Wa Dae official said, “We will convince local residents and then deploy the THAAD launchers according to the agreement between the defense ministries of both countries.”

But that could take a long time since locals continue to protest. “There is no way that the government will send in riot police to ensure the deployment,” a government source said. [Chosun Ilbo]

You can read more at the link, but what does everyone else think?  Does anyone think the protesters will drop their blockade and let the launchers access the THAAD site?

President Moon Calls for “Provisional Deployment” of THAAD Launchers

I wonder how much time by President Moon’s staff used thinking of a term to call the deployment of the four remaining THAAD launchers that would still appease their left wing political base?:

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a National Security Council session at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on July 29, 2017, in this photo provided by his office. (Yonhap)

On the liberal Moon Jae-in government’s countermeasures against the latest North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test, the ruling party voiced its consent, but opposition parties called for tougher ones, criticizing the president’s Berlin peace initiative that puts more weight on dialogue with the North than pressure on it.

In an emergency National Security Council meeting convened right after the North’s new ICBM test Friday night, Moon proposed a set of countermeasures, including the temporary deployment of four additional THAAD interceptor launchers, and ordered consultation with the United States on ways to bolster strategic deterrence against the recalcitrant North. The presidential office said later that the provisional deployment does not mean the retraction of a declared environmental impact assessment on the deployment site.  [Yonhap]

So basically the Moon administration is doing what the Park administration planned to do with the remaining THAAD launchers without calling it that.  What is ironic about this is that the Korea left is supporting President Moon’s decision despite their prior opposition to THAAD.

House of Representatives Passes Defense Bill Increasing Missile Defense Spending By $2.5 Billion

It looks like missile defense will continue to be a growth industry for US defense contractors:

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday passed a defense bill calling for increased spending on missile defense programs amid North Korea’s evolving threats.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (H.R. 2810) passed 344-81 to order US$696 billion for defense in the fiscal year 2018, including some $12.5 billion for missile defense programs.

“The Committee continues to be a strong supporter of a robust missile defense program given the increasing threats against our homeland and regional allies posed by North Korea, Iran and others,” the House Committee on Armed Services said in a summary of the bill posted on its website. “The bill adds $2.5 billion above the President’s budget request to meet critical missile defense needs. It also recognizes the increasing quantitative and qualitative nature of the ballistic missile threats we face as a nation.”  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

THAAD Conducts Successful Intercept Flight Test In Alaska Against Musudan Equivalent Target

The big take away for Korea watchers from this successful flight test of the THAAD missile defense system is that the threat target was an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) which is the same class of missile as North Korea’s Musudan.  A THAAD battery was deployed to Guam back in 2013 to defend against the Musudan threat to Guam and this flight test validates its capability to defend against this threat:

The United States said on Tuesday it shot down a simulated, incoming intermediate-range ballistic missile similar the ones being developed by countries like North Korea, in a new test of the nation’s defences.

Planned months ago, the U.S. missile defence test over the Pacific Ocean has gained significance after North Korea’s July 4 launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile heightened concerns about the threat from Pyongyang.

The test was the first-ever of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an incoming IRBM, which experts say is a faster and more difficult target to hit than shorter-range missiles.

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency said the IRBM was designed to behave similarly to the kinds of missiles that could threaten the United States.

“The successful demonstration of THAAD against an IRBM-range missile threat bolsters the country’s defensive capability against developing missile threats in North Korea and other countries,” the Missile Defense Agency said in a statement.   [Reuters]

You can read more at the link, but the THAAD system has now had 14 of 14 successful intercepts during flight tests.

GMD System Successfully Intercepts A Threat Representative ICBM During Test

I think it is important to remember these tests are in a highly controlled environment, but I think without a doubt it does increase confidence in the only system the US currently has to defend against the North Korean ICBM threat:

VANDENBERG AFB, CA – MAY 30: A ground-based interceptor rocket is launched on May 30, 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket from Vandenberg successfully intercepted and destroyed a target missile in space – most likely above waters east of Hawaii that have been temporarily closed to all shipping. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Pentagon announced that the United States on Tuesday tested for the first time its intercontinental ballistic missile defense system, a system designed to foil the types of missiles Kim Jong-un and North Korea have been looking to develop.

According to Reuters, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) interceptor test took place today at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The test was a success.

“We improve and learn from each test, regardless of the outcome. That’s the reason we conduct them,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday. “The system that we test today is a developmental system that’s being flown for the first time and we look forward to understanding the results so we continue to mature the system and stay ahead of the threat.”

While the test is said not to be just about North Korea, the timing indicates that it has everything to do with Kim Jong-un’s recent ballistic missile tests.  [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

That is where many in the media are getting it wrong, these tests are planned out and scheduled years in advance.  The fact North Korea fired ballistic missiles recently as the Pentagon has said had nothing to do with the timing of the test.  Plus this system could not shoot down those missiles anyway.  GMD is only used to defend against ICBMs.  The shorter and medium range missiles that North Korea has been firing recently would be defended against by the THAAD and Patriot missile defense systems.

You can read more about this history of the GMD program at Defense News.

Report Claims High Altitude Ballistic Missiles Can Defeat US Missile Defenses In South Korea

Once again people are confusing the term missile defense system with THAAD:

North Korea is believed to have designed its series of missile tests in a way that can beat THAAD and other U.S. missile defense systems aimed at protecting South Korea and Japan, according to a congressional report Thursday.

The Congressional Research Service said in a report cited by the Washington Times that the North test-launched missiles last year in flights precisely designed to avoid interception by rocketing them into much higher altitudes.

That was aimed at getting the reentry warhead to descend at a steeper angle and faster speed, “making it potentially more difficult to intercept with a missile defense system,” the CRS report said, according to the newspaper.

The North has also demonstrated an ability to launch a salvo attack with multiple missiles, it said.

“This is consistent with a possible goal of being able to conduct large ballistic missile attacks with large raid sizes, a capability that could make it more challenging for a missile defense system to destroy each incoming warhead,” the CRS report said.  [Yonhap]

First of all of course if North Korea masses enough ballistic missiles at one location and there is not enough Patriot and THAAD interceptors to shoot them down then ballistic missiles will get through.  This is not a missile defense problem it is a math problem.  The other thing people need to realize is if the Kim regime masses missiles in one location to defeat a missile defense battery that means it has less in its inventory to use in other locations.

Secondly there are different types of missile defense systems which THAAD is one part of.  Patriot is a lower tier system that cannot do engagement outside the atmosphere.  THAAD is a system that can do engagement outside the atmosphere to intercept missiles fired at higher altitudes as cited in the article.

When I get time I will have to read the actual CRS report because what the media claims and what is actually in a report are often very different things.